National Parks in the United States are our country’s crown jewels. Wallace Stegner called national parks "…the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst." Fast-forward to the present, and we see that these areas are being loved to death – suffering from overcrowding and with an infrastructure that is increasingly falling into disrepair. The solution by the Trump administration is to reduce the budget given to the National Park Service, while more than doubling the fees charged to visit the parks – from $30/week to $70/week at the most popular parks. We understand that additional funding for the parks is needed; they do need our help – but disagree with this funding mechanism.
Currently people in our lowest economic classes are vastly underrepresented visitors to the parks, either because existing fees are out of reach financially or because they are deterred by feeling that they do not belong there; it is almost as if there were a legacy of exclusion. The huge increase in suggested fees would further disenfranchise these Americans – just at a time when they are beginning to discover and enjoy what the parks have to offer. The fee increase would put these public lands further out of reach of some Americans, while catering to the upper economic classes – and that is far from the “absolutely democratic” vision of Stegner’s that the parks should represent.
The parks should have their budget increased (not decreased), thus supported by all Americans. The problem of crowding should be addressed with thoughtful and constructive programs that can produce quality experiences by all park visitors.